Known for its liberal lifestyle, hilly surrounds, scenic beauty and summer fog, San Fran is one of the USA’s most rated cities.
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Why San Francisco?
Great weather, lively culture and the open road. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Lombard Street (‘The Crookedest Street in the World’), there’s plenty for the tourist in San Francisco, and rarely a dull evening either. In particular, Yoshi’s Jazz Club regularly pulls great acts and has an excellent Japanese restaurant too.
Given the opportunity to venture a little further afield, there’s also plenty more to see and do scattered around the Bay – from touring the world-class Berkeley and Stanford Universities, to wine-tasting in the vineyards of Napa Valley.
The last time I stayed in San Francisco, I was really impressed by the Hotel Triton; funky boutique accommodation bang in the city centre. Surrounded by cafes, restaurants and bars, and sitting between Union Square (a shopping district) and Chinatown, the location is unbeatable – and it’s reasonably priced to boot.
For backpackers or the more budget-restricted, the Pacific Tradewinds Hostel might be worth a look – a clean and central hostel – if a little compact – with friendly staff and visitors. They also provide free internet access, handy for trip planning.
The Bay Area is heaven for food aficionados. It introduced me to Mexican food and now I’d love to see more of it here in Scotland. I’d recommend trying a burrito from a local Taqueria (there are many all throughout the Bay).
For meals of both quality and quantity, ‘The Cheesecake Factory‘ is hard to beat. They have a few restaurants dotted around the Bay and their Palo Alto branch is probably the one I’d recommend most highly. It’s close to the stunning Stanford University and next to plenty of cafes and bars.
Back in San Francisco, ‘Tommy’s Joynt’ is a local bar/diner with a strong history of providing affordable carvery grub. It’s popular with locals (especially after work) and has a great friendly vibe – a good place to start an evening out.
The typical tourist sights – the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Fisherman’s Wharf – are all definitely worth seeing, though be prepared for large crowds! For a slightly more relaxed experience, check out some of the city’s local parks – including Twin Peaks, which gives a viewpoint over the city, and Dolores Mission Park – a popular local hang-out.
There’s also some great hill-walking to be had just north of San Francisco – giving a good excuse to drive across the famous bridge. Mount Tamalpais (within 45 minutes of town) will reward you with a view over San Francisco and the entire Bay Area.
City traffic. In particular, try to avoid driving in or out of San Francisco during commuter rush hours – or pack some good CDs because you’ll be in for a slow drive.
If you’re out for a drink in the evening, bear in mind that it’s customary to tip bar staff in the States, even when ordering at the bar.
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